July 18, 2024

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Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway accuses truck-stop billionaire of bribery. His lawyer says it’s a ‘wild invention’

2 min read

An attorney for the billionaire Haslam family called bribery allegations leveled by Warren Buffett’s company a “wild invention.”

But a judge didn’t decide immediately whether those allegations will be resolved at a January trial that should help determine the multibillion-dollar price Berkshire Hathaway might have to pay the Haslams for the rest of the Pilot truck stop chain.

The Haslams and Buffett’s company are accusing each other of manipulating Pilot’s earnings this year to affect the price Berkshire would have to pay for the Haslams’ remaining 20% stake in the company if the family decides to sell.

The Haslam family — which includes Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam — accused Berkshire last month of trying to understate Pilot’s earnings this year by changing its accounting practices.

Berkshire responded this week with a lawsuit of its own accusing Jimmy Haslam of trying to bribe key Pilot executives with payments several times their annual salaries to inflate the company’s profits.

“We called Berkshire’s allegations wild inventions in our opposition brief,” attorney Anitha Reddy, who represents the Haslams, said Thursday. “I don’t think we could have been clearer that we dispute them. And if there is any doubt in Berkshire’s mind, we think they’re false and we intend to defeat them on whatever schedule the court orders.”

The judge promised to rule by Friday whether Berkshire’s lawsuit can be heard at the same time a trial on Pilot’s original lawsuit is scheduled in January. Berkshire wants the court to prevent the Haslams from exercising their option to sell the rest of the company to Berkshire next year because it says there are so many doubts about the accuracy of Pilot’s 2023 earnings. Even if the judge agrees, the Haslams would still have the option to sell in future years under the agreement they signed back in 2017.

Berkshire’s attorney…

Josh Funk, The Associated Press

2023-12-04 05:31:30

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